Your Thoughts On Steel Rims vs Aluminum On Vintage Schwinns?


This ad disappears when logged in

MarkKBike

Finally riding a big boys bike
Apr 17, 2017
485
1,092
Chicago Suburbs
#1
I recently swapped the Steel Rims on my Schwinn Le-Tour with a set of Aluminum Rims. Prior to the swap I weighed the wheels and the aluminum rims were slightly lighter, not by a whole lot.

This could all be in my mind, but my initial impression was that I'm not sure I like the change. Braking definitely improved, The smoothness of the ride felt a little different. I used the same tubes and tires. I'm not sure if I was just tired because I mowed the lawn earlier, or if the changes I felt were real. The aluminum rims were also slightly wider, so maybe I have less cushion between the rim and the pavement.

The peddling and coasting seemed more involved and the bumps on the pavement more pronounced. I assume the steel rims carry more momentum, and maybe this is what I felt I was missing.

I will need to go on a few more rides, but I think I might even switch back. I always loved how smooth this bike felt, and I think I may have lost a little bit of that smoothness in the change. I might also just be imagining things as the weight of the two wheel sets was closer than I expected.
 
Last edited:

bikerbluz

Look Ma, No Hands!
Oct 15, 2016
59
44
62
Richmond, IN
#2
Not an expert by any stretch of the imagine, but steel frames ride more smooth, as a whole, then aluminum. So it may also transfer to the wheel scenario? IMHO. I luv the ride of the old lightweight Schwinns. Heavy, but ride like a Cadillac.
 

Wingslover

'Lil Knee Scuffer
Mar 24, 2018
23
21
46
Chicago, IL, USA
#3
There's a huge difference in rims between the two, in both strength and rigidity. Aluminum is more rigid and fragile than steel: it will hop more, crack more easily, and jump on bumpier surfaces. Steel is more pliable and absorbs a lot more shock, which may make it feel more stable, especially on those heavy gauge frames that Schwinn produced.

I have way more experience with steel but if I had a choice, I'd keep like with like: steel with steel, and aluminum with aluminum.
 

Eric Amlie

Finally riding a big boys bike
May 9, 2010
296
234
Madison, United States
#4
I put a set of wheels with alloy rims from a Super Sport on my '64 Varsity.
There is a reason why the upscale(from the Varsity) Super Sport was equipped with these wheels.
I've read that a pound of weight off the wheels is worth 5 pounds off the non rotating parts of the bike.
 

49autocycledeluxe

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 29, 2017
820
1,358
58
fremont california
#5
unless you need to be original aluminum wheels will be the way to go. equally important to the rim itself is the hub and bearings. I have wheels on my old Lemond roadbike that will spin for 3 or 4 minutes if you just barely touch them. then the weight of the valve stem is enough to spin them back the other way and end up at the bottom. those wheels have some nice bearings.
 

harpon

Finally riding a big boys bike
Jan 8, 2012
105
62
Jacksonville FL
#6
Aluminum! And yet "Caveat Emptor"- Let the Buyer Beware! There are vast differences in alloy rims. The more narrow the rim, the more noticeable the difference- especially climbing or in stop and go urban situations. 3/4 inch wide rims are going to be about 25 percent lighter than one inch- if you also include 1 1/8 tires then the weight is very significant between both the rim and the tire, and the roll is much better too.
 

SirMike1983

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Jun 27, 2008
2,928
2,355
United States
#7
My favorite Schwinn rims are the "Stainless" marked S6 rims from the 1940s to early 1950s. They're lighter than standard steel S6 and give a very comfortable ride. They also look nice and are period correct for my bikes (3-speeds rather than 10-speeds, admittedly).

20171119_152353.jpg
 
Likes: bikemonkey

Retrorider

On Training Wheels
Apr 20, 2018
7
18
47
Long Beach, CA, USA
#8
IMG_7930.JPG
I just finished building a wheel set for my 47 schwinn continental. I chose an aluminum rim over the stainless steel originals. I prefer the quick feel the aluminum rims offer. I agree with the theory of keeping rotational weight to a minimum. I'm also a huge fan of 650b tires. These grand bois tires blow my mind. They are an interesting combination of soft and comfortable and yet super efficient and great handling. For anyone interested in knowing about the conversion to a 42mm 650b tire and rim, it ends up being the same diameter as a schwinn 26 1 3/8 rim with a Kenda tire.
 

Adamtinkerer

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Sep 8, 2008
3,401
453
Western North carolina
#9
In high school, I had a Voyageur 11.8, and it had some fancy alloy rims. But the pothole ridden streets of suburban NJ quickly destroyed them! I scrounged up some steel Varsity rims, which handled the bumps well. At least until someone stole it!
 

49autocycledeluxe

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 29, 2017
820
1,358
58
fremont california
#10
In high school, I had a Voyageur 11.8, and it had some fancy alloy rims. But the pothole ridden streets of suburban NJ quickly destroyed them! I scrounged up some steel Varsity rims, which handled the bumps well. At least until someone stole it!
in 1983 I bought a Centurian 12 speed with all Shimano 600 components and Aluminum rims. I bet I put 7500 miles on those wheels with nothing but an occasional true. the only reason I changed them is my poor maintenance led to scored bearing races. my "new" aluminum rims have been on the bike since 1996...probably like 3,000 miles on those. the strength of a wheel is more in the spokes than the rim material, and potholes need to be avoided.
 

This ad disappears when logged in
Most Recent BUY IT NOW Items Listed on eBay
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture
eBay Auction Picture